This is a broad manifesto commitment, the specifics of which are addressed in several related policies (see below). It’s also a challenging one.
We’re interpreting “set new standards” as just that – setting them. We are not interpreting this as a promise to ‘attain’ these new standards. This is a difficult call, but we have to bear in mind two things. Firstly, the government is not responsible for delivery of health services. Secondly, the definition of “set” in this context means simply to establish, or to describe so, technically, this is all they are promising. What we would also say is that the wording around this policy in the manifesto (see above) doesn’t make this distinction clearly. As a result, it would be forgivable to assume the government had accountability for achieving / delivering the standards it is setting. This is one of many examples of problematic language in manifestos, and we find it across other party manifestos too – not necessarily trying to mislead, but certainly assuming a certain level of knowledge that is not reasonable to assume.
To assess the status of this pledge we also need to be clear about what we mean by “priority areas”. This section of the manifesto deals with the requirement to deliver high quality healthcare in the NHS, so we’re using the standards of care for some common serious health conditions as our indicators.
Arguably the most significant development for the NHS under the strategic leadership of this government has been the publication of the NHS Long Term Plan in January 2019. The plan sets out strategies and objectives to improve care for major health conditions, including:
- a faster diagnosis standard for cancer, so that by 2028, the NHS will diagnose 75% of cancers at stage 1 or 2
- by 2028, 85% of eligible patients accessing cardiac rehabilitation
- by 2022, a ten-fold increase in the proportion of patients who receive a thrombectomy after a stroke
- by 2025 we will have amongst the best performance in Europe for delivering
thrombolysis to all patients who could benefit
- clear standards rolled out across the NHS for patients requiring access to community mental health treatment
Given the wording of this promise and the objectives set out in the Long Term plan, we are marking this policy as ‘done’. We’ll keep tracking the implementation of the initiatives in the plan, so follow this policy to stay up to date.
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- Improve our response to certain disease groups
- Give cancer patients a definitive diagnosis within 28 days by 2020
- Expand cancer screening and upgrade radiotherapy equipment
- Address the need for better treatments across the whole spectrum of mental health conditions
- Require all medical staff to have a deeper understanding of mental health
- Improve the co-ordination of mental health services with other local services